Study highlights Western needs
CALGARY, Alta. – Although still in its early stages, the Canada West Foundation’s research study, called Building the New West, is already yielding some interesting insight on the importance of freight transport to the region.
Canada West Foundation senior policy analyst, Robert Roach, has published a report called Beyond Our Borders: Western Canadian Exports in the Global Market. It sheds some new light on the important economic role played by Western Canada’s export sector and its relationship with the trucking industry.
One of the key findings outlined in the report is Western Canada’s international exports have increased by 221 per cent since 1981, while interprovincial trade has remained stagnant. International exports from the West amount to 36 per cent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The bulk of Western Canada’s exports are made up of agricultural and natural resource commodities such as crude oil, natural gas, forestry products, wheat and livestock.
Also on the rise, are the region’s exports to the U.S.; the destination for about 80 per cent of Western exports. Thanks to these emerging trends, Roach recommends the highway network be improved and better maintained.
“The transportation system is the means by which the West gets its goods to market,” says Roach in the executive summary of the report. “Steps need to be taken to ensure that the system receives the attention it deserves and the funding it needs to keep the West’s exports flowing smoothly.”
Other suggestions include continuing the quest for economic diversification by expanding the region’s role as a manufacturing region, and increasing the West’s stock of human capital.
“Skilled workers are in demand around the world and the degree to which the West can develop, attract, and retain these workers is critical to its ability to diversify its export base and stay competitive in the global economy,” says Roach. He urges employers to utilize the pool of aboriginals at their disposal while trying to attract more immigrants to Western Canada.
Another recommendation emerging from the study is to increase regional coordination throughout the four provinces, while maintaining and improving relations with the U.S.
“Selling to the U.S. market is the West’s bread and butter,” says Roach.
“Ensuring access to the U.S. market is an ongoing challenge that requires constant effort. At the same time, the West should look for ways to diversify its export base by expanding its trade with countries other than the U.S.”
A complete copy of the report is available for $5, and can be obtained by calling Canada West Foundation at 403-264-9535. n
SASKATOON, Sask. – A group of Saskatchewan farmers is taking over a stretch of Canadian National (CN) rail line to help meet the region’s grain hauling needs. Prairie Alliance for the Future (PAFF) has reached an agreement with CN to run trains on a network of CN branch lines near North Battleford beginning Aug. 1. There are 13 loading sites along the line, and local farmers will negotiate rail service with CN.
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